Barcelona vs Real Betis
Koeman started with a rather unusual lineup with resting Lionel Messi. It was also an unusual formation of Koeman with a 4-2-2 formation with Griezmann and Fati upfront, Dembele, Busquets, De Jong, and Pedri in the midfield, and the usual Alba, Pique, Lenglet, and Roberto handling the defensive duties.
There were speculations regarding Messi’s absence from the starting lineup; some claimed it was due to ankle discomfort, but the club had claimed it was a technical decision. At the end of the day, it was Messi’s magic that turned the game for Barcelona, which indicates there was no ankle issue whatsoever.
It was a good decision of Koeman to keep Messi on the bench as Messi has been relentlessly playing for Barcelona ever since. Messi got his first rest since September 2019. We can only wonder how he can keep going without rest and still deliver a masterpiece like such.
Pedri got his chance yet again, which was deserving and somehow uncomfortable at the same time. He’s a 17 years old boy; he has been playing continuously for Barcelona. He would need time, rest at times to come up with a better spark.
Starting him, again and again, would eventually tire him out, and it was quite evident. Starting Dembele, Fati, Griezmann was also okay considering the formation.
Barcelona doesn’t have many options, and to be honest, they aren’t trying to try things related to defence so, it was quite understandable to see the usual four players in the backline. It was a decent lineup overall.
The first half was decent from Barcelona in terms of attack, but they were rather sloppy and often exposed defensively. Griezmann missed four easy chances including a penalty, all in the first half.
Dembele was looking bright; his first touch and decision making capacity is still not up to the par, but he’s getting there. Dembele scored the opening goal for Barcelona. It was a wonderful strike from Dembele.
Fati had a decent 45 mins. Pedri wasn’t much involved, but he wasn’t bad either. Overall, it was a decent first half.
There were moments of spark from Barcelona, but at the same time, they were allowing Betis to create their chances as well, as evident by the equalizer from Antonio Sanabria in the final mins of the first half.
The attack of Betis wasn’t what was threatening, but it was the way Barcelona’s defence was constantly being exposed is what resulted in the 1-1 scoreline in the first half.
It was a very crucial fixture for Koeman‘s Barcelona as they are struggling to make a mark in Laliga.
Messi came on in the second half for Fati, and his impact was evident from his very first touch. He was getting more and more involved.
Barcelona looked much better after Messi came in. Griezmann’s confidence had hit the rock bottom after missing that penalty, but the outrageous dummy from the captain, Messi, to set Griezmann, changed things.
Barcelona got a penalty from handball in 60 mins, and Messi netted his second league goal for Barcelona.
Betis responded well despite being restricted to 10 men after Mandi was sent off due to handball while already being on a yellow card. They scored their second goal in the 73rd min, and again it came from the exposed defence of Barcelona.
Roberto wasn’t doing great defensively, but as Messi came in, he was linking well and managed to give in two assists for Barcelona’s fourth goal and final goal.
Messi and Pedri scored the fourth and fifth goals respectively to take away all three points. Messi finally scored a goal from open play in 91 days and what a game he had!
As often said, Barcelona’s issue is not the attack, not even the midfield, but the defence. The back four that faced Liverpool, almost the same back four that faced Bayern during that utter annihilation, and even after all this, they cannot go out again with the same defence yet again. This isn’t going to work.
Take Messi out from this game, and Barcelona would lose 5-2 instead. Stegen was making some good saves, and Betis would have scored some more if not for their poor finishing.
It was a good game, to be honest, an excellent game, considering the spirit Barcelona had needed, but there are things, Koeman needs to work on. It’s high time, Koeman thinks of fixing the loopholes of defence instead of using Messi as his golden card whenever the team is struggling.
MOTM: Lionel Messi, who else! It was Messi’s magic that completely altered the fate of Barcelona.